This is the third and final disc from Constellation’s MUSIQUE FRAGILE 01 collection. Khôra is Matthew Ramolo doing solo work on the guitar. But unlike any other guitar album you may have heard, this one is processed and manipulated so that much of the album sounds nothing like a guitar.
Most of the sounds on the disc are washes and waves of guitars that grow and fade. Although the opening track “Natura Naturans” has a recognizable acoustic guitar melody, the washes are all processed guitar sounds. This sound also has an echoing church bell, the kind of sound that would bot be out of place on a black metal album although this is as far from black metal as you can get.
The church bell, by the way is a field recording, and in addition to the guitars there are plenty of field recordings on the disc.
He generates a wonderfully expansive amount of moods as well. There are haunting melodies like on “Body Aperbut also beautifully upbeat ones like on “Hushed Pulse of the Universe”
I find the artwork that accompanies the Khora album to be the most satisfying of all three.
[READ: February 15, 2012] Tres
Another month, another posthumous Roberto Bolaño release. Tres is so-called because there are three pieces in it. They are described as poems, although I have a hard time seeing them as such. It has the Spanish title because it was originally published as Tres and the English version is actually a bilingual version with facing Spanish and English pages (translated by Laura Healy–I guess if Laura Healy translated it, it must be poetry as she is Bolaño’s poetry translator).
Tres is also amusing to me because it is so clearly a way to make a very small book seem bigger. In addition to the facing pages of the text, most pages have a paragraph or two at most (short ones at that). So it’s total 173 pages is really half that and then, given how much white space there is, it’s easily half that as well. None of this is a complaint, it’s just an observation.
The reason I’m confused about calling it poetry is because of the three pieces only one “looks” like poetry (with line breaks and what not). Indeed, the first piece, “Prosa del otoño en Gerona” literally translates as “Prose from Autumn in Gerona.” The second piece (the one that looks like poetry) is called “Los neochilenos” or “The Neochileans” and the final one is a series of numbered paragraphs (again, with no poetry conventions) called “Un paseo por la literatura” or “A Stroll through Literature.” I read each of these pieces three times primarily because I found them hard to follow and wondered what I was missing. Multiple readings did help, although I find with Bolaño’s longer short pieces, the details are exquisite while the overall picture is a bit confused.
“Prose from Autumn in Gerona” is a series of paragraphs that create a scene of a woman (a stranger) and “you.” What’s fun (and confusing ) about it is that Bolaño also retells this story as if it were a film…while he is still telling the main story. All of Bolaño’s elements are here: an author, sex, potential violence. It just has such an elliptical feel that it’s hard to digest properly. Even after three readings.
There’s also a problem with my not always knowing who Bolaño is talking about. He’s got a section about Giorgio Fox, who he describes as “a comic book character, seventeen year-old art critic.” I assume he is fictional, but who knows; I thought Enrique Lihn was fictional until I looked him up. (I don’t see anything about Fox online).
There is also an interesting aspect to the story in which the protagonist (Bolaño?) is in Gerona, Spain on a visa which does not get renewed. So that is hanging over his head as well. The whole piece comes together as a curious moment in the life of this protagonist, even if it really isn’t all that clear to me what’s going on. It was written in 1981 right after Antwerp, which I also found evocative but confusing.
A word as to why this can’t be a series of poems. Because no matter how interesting this text (which is all that was on a page) is, it is not a poem:
The protagonist is left with adventure and saying, “It’s started snowing, boss.”
So maybe the whole piece is a poem? As always, Bolaño is meticulous about his word choices (the makings of a good poet), but if you connected the paragraphs, it would read like any other piece of prose. I could accept that maybe there are several shorter pieces within the overall piece and maybe they are prose poems. But perhaps I’m thinking about this too much.
“The Neochileans” is, indeed, a poem (by my old-school standards). And it’s a long one (eighteen pages!). It deviates from Bolaño’s usual subject matter in that this is about a rock band called Pancho Relampágo and the Neochilanos. They are on a Northward tour of Chile. I found this poem light and fun, with some very funny moments and some typical band on a tour behavior. The band members are young (the poem ends “And none of the Neochileans/Was over 22) and are filled with “Pure inspiration/And no method at all”. Pancho Ferri (who is 28) is the lead singer. The band is given a van to tour the North (if you follow on a map you can see their journey up rte 5 to Copiapó and on to Arica, 1,200 miles from Santiago, where the started.) They even cross into Peru and head for the shining city of Lima!
After Pancho Ferri got sick he wanted to change the band name from Pancho Relampágo and the Neochilanos (relampágo means lightning) to Pancho Misterio and the Neochilanos. Pancho’s fever won’t break and the band plays instrumentals without him wondering where this will finally end. Dare they dream of reaching Ecuador?
This was written in 1993 and I really enjoyed it (especially once I got out the map).
The final piece, “A Stroll through Literature” (written in 1994) is another strange “poem.” There are 57 numbered paragraphs. Again, not in poetry style at all. It opens: “1. I dreamt that Georges Perec was three years old and visiting my house. I was hugging him, kissing him, saying what a sweet boy he was.” [See, that’s not a poem. Nor is “5. We, the nec spes nec metus“].
After a short break in that style, the remaining 50 paragraphs all start with “I dreamt.” He dreams about all kinds of literary figures: Alonso de Ercilla, Manuel Puig, Enqique Lihn, Gui Rosey, Gabriela Mistral, Philip K. Dick, Mark Twain, (sex with Anaïs Nin and Carson McCullers), Alphonse Daudet, and even James Matthew Barrie.
The “poem” ends with Bolaño promising to take care of young Perec, which I interpret as a loving embrace of the history of poetry. It’s a strange melding of all of Bolaño’s passions. And again, his detail is wonderful, it’s just never entirely clear what the overall point is.
This book is not a great place to start if you’re interested in Bolaño. Indeed, this would be for die hards only (which is why I suppose none of my libraries had it and I had to have it shipped from a University). But then, there’s not too many books that are bilingual, right?
We are nearing the end of the Bolaño posthumous p[publication list. According to the Wikipedia, there are six books left to be treated.
- The Secret of Evil (due out soon),
- Una Novelita Lumpen, 2002, [A Lumpen Novella]
- Los Sinsabores Del Verdadero Policía, 2011 [The Troubles of the Real Police Officer]
- Diorama (this book is unpublished at all, so it’s unlikely to be translated anytime soon),
There’s also a poetry collection
- The Unknown University [due out this year].
And what I think of as the Holy Grail:
- Consejos de un discípulo de Morrisona un fanático de Joyce, 1984 [Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic]. This novel has the coolest title and I am really looking forward to its publication. Of course, it’s a very early Bolaño piece so it is probably nuts. But then it was written in collaboration with Antoni García Porta, so who knows what he brings to the table!
For ease of searching I include: Khora, Bolano, otono, Pancho Relampago, Anais Nin, Antoni Garcia Porta.